One Secret to Boost Your Digital Illustration Workflow

One aspect that is fundamental for our process is to continually improve the workflow. Since this is a space for exploration and sharing, I would like to comment on a recent discovery in my learning path on illustration. As an extension of my interest in drawing, I have been immersing in digital paint and I know some of you that are on this journey too, so I wanted to communicate a find I have found very useful for myself.

As I have mentioned before, artists like filmmaker Kirby Ferguson consider one of the basic elements of creativity is copying and naturally, this happens with drawing as well. Even though you are not going to create an exact copy of another image (or perhaps you want to as a practice), it is natural to the process to create from existing references.  

Precisely, one of my top recent discoveries was an awesome tool for reference materials: PureRef

Picture this: you are ready to start an illustration and you have a set of references that will be used for inspiration. So what do you do next? You can put in on a side, hopefully you have a second monitor for observation, but it isn't always the case. Also switching interfaces between the illustration app and images can be a clumsy process.

This is when PureRef takes part: it is a 3rd party indie software that works wonderfully to create a sheet of reference images for displaying over Photoshop and Illustrator (or whatever program you use). Without annoying clutter you can zoom, pan and manipulate images. 

This was just to cool to keep to myself!

You can simply drag a bunch of images and they automatically arrange into a mosaic. It takes a while to get familiar with all the options available, but you can basically do whatever you want:

  • Zoom
  • Pan
  • Closeup the selected picture for details 
  • Rearrange the images
     


So you see it in a practical situation here is an example of one of my recent exercises in Photoshop:

Once you get used to the application it becomes part of a seamless interaction between your drawing and the references. It is very helpful, specially if you are using groups of images as you can pack them, arrange them as you wish and switch between them according to your artistic need.

So go ahead and download it! It is a "name your own price" software, but it surely is worth very much for its features. I won't be able to stop using it from now on, it even has a portable version so this is definitely becoming part of my process.

 The finished exercise: Casco Viejo, Panama City (2017). Even though I would like to fix several things, I tried to stick to the focus of the practice, which was basically to define a process for digital illustration and to play with color.

The finished exercise: Casco Viejo, Panama City (2017). Even though I would like to fix several things, I tried to stick to the focus of the practice, which was basically to define a process for digital illustration and to play with color.

This search to establish an illustration process with digital mediums led me to an essential idea, applicable to illustration or to any other field:
 

Once in a while we must stop and analyze our creative process.
 

Ask yourself this questions:

  • Are you having any particular struggles?
  • What actions are the most frequent in your process? 
  • Is there anything you can automate?
     

Sometimes we forget to ask this type of questions because we are too plunged into work and in the end we figure out some sort of way of solving things — it's not a perfect mechanism but it gets the job done. But what if one small change can improve it all?

Workflow improvements result in a major boost for our creative process, they allow us to work faster and make our life easier so they are infinitely valuable. In this realm, there is a lot of tech development too that we can learn and embrace as a part of our work. 

This adjustments are of course extremely personal, but there isn't a better process than one you define yourself with experience and practice, according to what is natural for you.

Just don't forget to continually tailor your process, and as a result you can focus in what is really important: creating.